8vo (141 x 91 mm).  leaves. Bâtarde types. Title with small metalcut device of Simon Vostre (Renouard 1108), on verso a full-page metalcut of the Trinity and All Saints, large Pigouchet device on verso of last leaf (Renouard 919), 3- and 4-ine metalcut initials. All quires with printed quire signatures on first two rectos and contemporary manuscript signatures on 3rd and 4th rectos. Small marginal repair to title-leaf, catching edge of metalcut on verso. Eighteenth-century mottled sheep-backed paste-paper boards, spine with blue-stained calf lettering piece, edges red-sprinkled (rubbed, extremities abraded). Provenance: contemporary inscription on title effaced in ink; Carmelites of Valenciennes, later 16th or 17th-century inscription Carmeli Vallencen”; Maille, 18th-century signature.***
First(?) Edition of a treatise on the path to spiritual enlightenment, by a fifteenth-century French theologian and teacher, whose mysticism was expressed with logical clarity. A fragmentary copy survives (BnF) of an undated edition printed by Gilles Couteau (cf. GW 0670110N and Brunet II:4). Couteau was active from 1491 to 1523, and the priority of these two very rare editions has not been established.
Robert Ciboule (or Cibole) was rector of the University of Paris from 1437, a regent of the Faculty of Theology from 1438 until his death, and chancellor of Notre-Dame from 1451, in which capacity he submitted a memoir in favor of the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc in the 1455-56 retrial. A moderate in the Gersonian mode, Ciboule was actively engaged “in the political and religious movements and controversies of his time” (Sullivan, 157) and an advocate of reform within the Church. Described as “discreet ... a liberal, enlightened thinker, an honnête servant of the State, a good writer” (Temple, 90), Ciboule was also a well-known preacher, some of whose sermons are preserved in contemporary manuscript collections. Ciboule’s works, most of which were written in French, “demonstrate an intellectual and speculative approach to spirituality” (Sullivan, 160). In the prologue of the Livre de Perfection he enumerates the traits of Christian perfection, begging the readers’ indulgence for not fulfilling them himself. The treatise describes the eight steps on the path to spiritual perfection. Although written in French in order to reach a broad audience, the difficult, ascetic spiritual path outlined by Ciboule, whose ideal amounted to a quasi-monastic existence, was paradoxically hardly accessible to most laypeople.
The criblé metalcut on the verso of the title (measuring 126 x 80 mm.), from Pigouchet’s stock, shows the kingdom of heaven in the upper compartment as the Trinity among saints, and, in the lower compartment, the Church, represented by the kneeling Pope and King of France facing each other in front of a cathedral, each at the head of their respective constituencies of clerics and laymen. The cut was also used in several Books of Hours printed by Pigouchet for Simon Vostre, and was copied by other printers. Densely printed, with few paragraph breaks, and illustrated only with this generic though fine metalcut, the present inexpensively printed edition was probably intended for clerics and students of the Sorbonne Faculty of Theology.
Only two copies of this edition are recorded in the cited sources, at the Bibliothèque Mazarine and the BnF (catalogue description misdated “1607”).
USTC 8327; Bechtel, C-361; ISTC ic00497050; GW Sp.499b; Pettegree, French Vernacular Books, 13144. On Cibole, cf. Sullivan, Parisian Licentiates in Theology, A.D. 1373-1500. A Biographical Register (2004-2011) 2:156-161; Maud E. Temple, “Robert Ciboule and his Vie des Justes: an Academic Moralist of the Fifteenth Century," Romanic Review, Vol. 6 (1915):87-102. Item #2918